Since September, I have stayed up until midnight every single Sunday night. It didn’t matter what I had to do on Monday or how long I had been awake, I couldn’t sleep. I waited anxiously on my phone, in the dark sometimes, for the clock to tick on to midnight. At 12:01am on Monday, every app on my phone would register that the baby and I had made it another week. Another week closer to viability, another week of development, another week of a strong, steady heartbeat. One more week of being safe.
Morgan and I have wanted a child for a long time. Well, a relatively long time. I have met people over the years that have spent decades trying to get pregnant. Our story isn’t that long by any stretch. But four years sure seems like a long time when everyone around you has two or three children and you can’t get one positive pregnancy test. Even the couples we knew who had been diagnosed as “infertile” for whatever reason had gotten pregnant in the time that we had been trying, sometimes two or three times. By May of 2016, I had given up on ever having a baby on our own. I spent the summer doing extensive research on foster care and adoption laws. We wanted children so badly and if it wasn’t God’s will for us to have our own, then we’d gladly take another child that needed a home. By August of 2016, I had all but given up. However, I was willing to give it one last try and scheduled another consultation with a fertility specialist. The first opening they had was in October.
Mid-September, I got sick. Everyone in the house got sick with a respiratory infection, and I had it worse than anyone. Then I started having flu-like symptoms. The doctors said it was a virus and just to wait it out. I tried. I was sick for weeks. I fell behind in school and barely moved unless it was from the bed to the couch. Everyone else had recovered, but I was still so sick. One night, I jokingly mentioned to Morgan that it was possible that I was pregnant. He laughed, I laughed. We laughed together in the way that only a couple who has taken a million pregnancy tests can laugh. We knew there was no way we were pregnant. Four years of hope-crushing negative pregnancy tests had convinced us that we weren’t having kids on our own. A few days later, I did have him pick up a test just to rule out pregnancy before I headed back to the doctor.
Shock of all shocks, the test was positive. I stood in the bathroom staring at the double pink line and, if I’m going to be completely honest, I said some things that make me glad that Cory didn’t have ears yet. I pushed the door open and stared at Morgan. “Come here and tell me if I’m going blind.” He cried. He saw the test and he started crying. I wouldn’t believe it was positive. Through the next week, while I desperately tried to trick our health insurance into covering a blood test, I still didn’t believe it. I called and cancelled our fertility consultation but I still couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that I was pregnant. Even a month later when we saw the baby on the ultrasound and heard his heartbeat, I refused to believe it. At sixteen weeks, when we heard his heartbeat and a loud thump as he kicked the doppler, I could not allow myself to believe it. In fact, it wasn’t until our anatomy scan at twenty weeks that I finally breathed a huge sigh of relief and sank into the wonderful feeling that I was carrying a healthy, perfect baby that was going to be all ours.
My half-pregnancy with Cory was pretty terrible. I’ve never been pregnant before so I don’t have much to compare it to, but I didn’t realize until after I delivered him just how much pain I had been experiencing. From the first couple weeks of pregnancy, my usually normal blood pressure shot up. I felt like I was having a constant and severe panic attack as my heart beat out of my chest. I honestly didn’t even know I had a sciatica until Cory jammed his head into my pelvis from eight weeks on. Most nights, I couldn’t even lay down to sleep because there was literal acid coming up into my mouth and sinuses from my stomach. I could not eat anything without getting sick. I was severely swollen very early on, from my feet to my eyes. I was plagued with various infections, as though my immune system had given up the ghost. And because my blood type doesn’t like Morgan’s, the doctors cautioned that my symptoms might only get worse.
I never expected to make it to twelve weeks. I thought I was going to have a miscarriage from the second I learned I was pregnant until I hit sixteen weeks. I was convinced that I would lose him. I did everything I could: I ate as healthily as possible. I meditated almost every day. I did prenatal yoga like it was my path to salvation. I practiced guided breathing to slow my heart and lower my blood pressure. I begged the people around me to deal with problems and stress where I couldn’t hear them. Every morning, I gagged down vitamins and probiotics and fish oil and digestive enzymes. I talked to Cory constantly. I sang to him. I told him everything was okay and that I’d do everything I could to keep him safe. Every single Sunday night, I congratulated him for making it another week. “We’ve done it, baby! You survived, I survived! We’re both alive! Huzzah!” Then I updated him. “You’re eighteen weeks. Only another ten weeks and you’ll most likely survive! We can do it!” In my heart, though, I was convinced that something was going to go horribly wrong.
On Monday, January 17th, we had our twenty week ultrasound. The tech told us that everything was perfect, that Cory was a boy, that he was a little big but healthy as could be. She told us I was doing well, that everything was measuring correctly. For the first time in four and a half months, I felt relaxed. We had made it to twenty weeks. There was every likelihood that Cory was going to live. Even if we only made it a few more weeks, he could live. I finally let myself accept that we were having a baby. When we went to the store to get balloons that night for a gender reveal, I had some weird cramps but nothing abnormal. I had never in my life been more happy or more at peace.
Throughout the day on Tuesday and Wednesday, I felt weird. Lightheaded, dizzy, crampy. Nothing out of the ordinary for someone with high blood pressure. Morgan checked it every couple of hours and it was high, but not so high that it warranted a call to the doctor. I had a haircut on Wednesday afternoon and the cramps were getting pretty bad. The pain was changing, though, and the cramps now felt like pressure all across my back. When I walked out to the car, I told Morgan that he might have to take me to the hospital. By the time we got home, I was having this weird pressure every once in a while, but it would let up and I’d forget about it. I was standing in the bedroom, next to my dresser, deciding if I wanted to go to the hospital or just to a movie when the pressure returned. I couldn’t stand up straight, I couldn’t talk. It was very painful, but not so much that it could possibly be the contractions that make women on tv scream and cry and collapse. It stopped and I stood there in horror trying to catch my breath and figure out what was happening. Before five minutes passed, it happened again and I knew. I knew and I started to cry.
Cory was born the next morning, the nineteenth. He was born two days after I started to hope.
Yesterday, we would have been twenty-three weeks. I stayed up until late the night before and watched the minutes tick by. Midnight. One. Two. Three.
On Thursday, he will have been dead for three weeks. I have not lost my faith. I still have hope. But right now, I feel very empty and alone. People have asked how we are doing. The short answer is that we are mourning. We are still mourning. I’m not sure how long it will last, but it hasn’t stopped yet. I don’t know how to put into words what it feels like to have a wonderful, perfect, much-anticipated little life disappear. It’s horrible and it’s a pain that doesn’t simply melt away. It makes everything else, all of life, seem inconsequential and unimportant. I know that eventually time will make this sting less, and make it easier to bear. But that doesn’t seem so reassuring right now.